Fall is probably the best season for hiking. Gone are the stifling hot temperatures and nasty biting insects; here are crisp cold mornings and beautiful foliage changes.
Before you hit the trails, think about what fall weather means in the Upstate and western North Carolina: drastic differences in temperature between day and night with possible frost and even early snow, quickly falling darkness and slippery trails thanks to mud, frost and rotting leaves. No matter what the conditions might be, you can enjoy the great outdoors if you’re well prepared. Here are essential items you should bring or wear on every hike.
Layer up — Start with non-cotton, moisture-wicking base layers. Wear or pack additional warm, waterproof and windproof layers like a synthetic down vest or jacket, merino wool socks and a lightweight raincoat and beanie. Add or remove layers as needed.
Let there be light — A headlamp or flashlight will help you hike out safely if you get caught in the woods after dark unexpectedly. Hiking in the dark is dangerous — you’re more likely to get lost or injured if you can’t see where you’re going. Don’t rely on your cell phone’s flashlight. Phones can die, and using the flashlight will drain your battery.
Know where you’re going — An old-fashioned trail map supplemented by phone navigation apps like AllTrails, Gaia GPS, TopoMaps and ViewRanger can keep you from getting lost or help you find your way again. If you plan on using the app regularly, bring a USB charger and power bank in case your device runs out of juice.
Nutrition — Bring along enough calories to sustain your energy for a long day of physical activity. Bars like Larabar, Clif Bar and Kind bars are easy and portable, or try dried fruits, nuts and jerky. Keep food in a zip-close bag so it’ll stay dry.
Drink up — Staying hydrated on the trail is absolutely essential. Besides sating your thirst, water helps keep muscles and joints working properly to avoid injury and soreness while you hike. It’s recommended to pack at least 2 liters of water per person. Consider a hydration bladder — it’s easier to carry than bulky water bottles, and you can drink freely while you hike.